Definitions

Adapted from The Language of Gender by Justin Clark, Gender Spectrum

Cisgender:

Adult definition - Refers to a person whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth. 

Kid-friendly definition - When babies are born, doctors look at their bodies and assign them a gender based on the body parts they see. Sometimes kids grow up and feel like the gender the doctor assigned to them. this is called cisgender. Sometimes kids grow up and they realize that their gender identity does not match what they were assigned at birth. This is called transgender. There are lots of ways to be transgender and there is no one right way to do it!
 

Gender:
Adult definition - A spectrum of identities that are decided upon by an individual. Some examples of gender identities are man, woman, transgender, and nonbinary. (To see more gender identities, see the definition for Gender Creative/Genderfluid, below). 

 

Kid-friendly definition - Gender is something adults came up with to sort people into groups. Many people think there are only two genders, girls and boys, but this is not true. There are many ways to be a boy, a girl, both or neither. 
 

Gender Attribution:

Adult definition - This is the way the world perceives someone's gender. Sometimes it matches a person's gender identity, and sometimes it does not. 

Kid-friendly definition - This is the way other people see your gender. Sometimes they might make guesses

about your gender that are not true. This is not because something is wrong with you, it is because they don't know who you really are yet. One way to let them know what your gender is would be to tell them, but you don't have to do that if you don't want to. 
 

Gender Binary:

Adult definition - This is a construct our society has created that places boys in one section and girls in the other. It is explicitly and implicitly reinforced through clothing, toys, books and other forms of media. The premise of the gender binary is that there are only two genders, female and male, and that everyone fits into one or the other. In our culture there are also behaviors, actions and objects that are associated with either side of the binary. Gender stereotypes arise from the gender binary. The binary is limiting and most people do not fit entirely on one side or the other. 

Kid-friendly definition - Some people think that there are only two ways to be: a boy or a girl. This is the binary. "Bi" means two. In the gender binary, there are things that boys are supposed to wear, like, say, and do and there are things that girls are supposed to wear, like, say, and do. We call these stereotypes. The thing about stereotypes is they are often not true, because everyone is different. The gender binary tells people that they have to be one or the other. 

Gender Creative/Genderfluid:

Adult definition - Gender identities that fall outside of the gender binary and suggest that gender is fluid and flexible. Some people use terms such as: gender expansive, gender nonconforming, bigender, agender, neutrois, gender neutral, or genderqueer (although this one is usually reserved for adults). 

Kid-friendly definition - There are many ways to be. Some people identify as a boy, a girl, both, neither or something in between. Everyone decides their own gender, and some people identify as gender creative. This might mean they identify as gender creative. Someone who is gender creative might use "he" and "him" pronouns, paint his nails and wear dresses. Or perhaps someone who is gender creative might use "they" and "them" pronouns and like to build forts, eat ice cream and play with their friends. That is the great thing about being gender creative, it's up to you! 
 

Gender Expression:

Adult definition - This is the way people express their gender to the world through clothing, hairstyle, behavior, and voice. 

Kid-friendly definition - This is the way you show everyone your gender. When you make choices about the clothes you wear, the way you move your body, and what you do with your hair, you are sharing who you are with other people. It is important to remember that people have genders, things do not. That means that just because someone has short hair that doesn't make them a boy, and just because someone is wearing a dress, it doesn't mean they are a girl. We all get to make choice about what we like, what we wear, and what we do. 

Gender Identity:

Adult definition - This is how someone identifies their own gender based on their own sense of self. Someone's gender identity is how they see themselves and call themselves and how they want others to see and call them. 

Kid-friendly definition - This is how you see yourself and want others to see you. You are the only one who can say your gender identity, it is yours. Sometimes it matches what the doctor said when you were born, and sometimes it does not. There is no wrong way to identify your gender. 

Gender Spectrum:

Adult definition - This is the opposite of the gender binary. Instead of viewing gender as two poles, this view of gender is more fluid. 

 

Kid-friendly definition - The gender spectrum is the opposite of the gender binary. A spectrum is a long line, or some people think of it as a circle. This gives lots more spaces for different people to exist. Instead of just boy and girl, people can be both, neither, or anywhere in between. 

Intersex:

Adult definition - Some babies are born with external genitalia, chromosomes and/or hormones that do not fit perfectly into either "female" or "male." This is because there are not only two possibilities. For some intersex babies, the doctor or the family decides the baby's biological sex.

Kid-friendly definition - Our bodies have lots of parts that help us work just right. Some of those things are on the outside of our bodies, and some of them are on the inside. Bodies come in lots of different ways. There are not only two ways for bodies to be, so sometimes a body isn't just "male" or "female." We call these people intersex. 

Nonbinary:

Adult Definition - Refers to people who feel that they are neither male nor female, and don't want to place themselves in either box. 

Kid-friendly definition - Some adults say that people have to be a boy or a girl. But we know that's not true. Some people identify as nonbinary because they don't feel like a boy or a girl. 

Pronouns:

Adult definition - Pronouns are a part of speech used to refer to a person when you are not using their name. She, her, and hers are referred to as "female pronouns" and are often used by people who identify as female. He, him, and his are referred to as "male pronouns" and are often used by people who identify as male. Some people choose to use gender neutral pronouns such as "they/them/theirs." 

Kid-friendly definition - When we are talking about someone, we use their name. We also use something called pronouns. Pronouns are the little words we say when we don't use someone's name. Pronouns are words like: "she," "he," and "they". Which pronouns do you want people to use when they talk about you? Practice asking someone else what their pronouns are. 

Sex:

Adult definition - A label assigned by a doctor upon birth based on the appearance of a person's external genitalia (and sometimes their chromosomes, hormones and/or reproductive organs). Some examples of sex are male, female, and intersex (see definition for intersex below). 

Kid-friendly definition - When people are born, the doctor looks at your body and decides if you are a boy, girl, intersex, or another category. This is confusing because just looking at your body parts doesn't actually tell someone what your gender is, only you know that. Some people grow up and their gender matches the one their were assigned at birth. Other people grow up and their gender does not match the one the doctors gave them when they were born. 

Sexual Orientation:

Adult definition - Patterns of sexual, emotional, or romantic attraction to people of the same or opposite genders. 

Kid-friendly definition - This means who you love or who you are attracted to. People can love someone with the same gender as them or a different gender. (Welcoming Schools has definitions of specific sexual orientations). 

Transgender:

Adult definition - Refers to a person whose gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. 

Kid-friendly definition - When babies are born, doctors look at their bodies and assign them a gender based on the body parts they see. Sometimes kids grow up and feel like the gender the doctor assigned to them. This is called cisgender. Sometimes kids grow up and they realize that their gender identity does not match what they were assigned at birth. This is called transgender. There are lots of ways to be transgender and there is no one right way to do it!

More Resources with Definitions